Chapter 1: Introduction and Summary
Appendix 1.1: Q and A on No Wars Between Democracies
Chapter 8: On The Nature of Democracy
Chapter 13: Why Does Power Kill?
Other Democratic Peace Documents On This Site
In early 1994, under the title "The Most Important Fact of Our Time," I posted on several internet news groups and e-mail lists the finding that democracies do not make war on each other, and suggested that through democratic freedom we now have a solution to war. This posting stimulated many questions and arguments. I then summarized the most important of these, provided my answers, and posted it on the internet under the title given this appendix. This appendix is a revision of that posting. The research details underlying this appendix are given in Chapter 2.
A:By democracy is meant liberal democracy, where those who hold power are elected in competitive elections with a secret ballot and wide franchise (loosely understood as including at least 2/3rds of adult males); where there is freedom of speech, religion, and organization; and a constitutional framework of law to which the government is subordinate and that guarantees equal rights.
A list of current liberal democracies includes Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus (Greek), Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Korea (South), Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Marshall Islands, , Mauritius, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Poland, Portugal, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, , South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, and Western Samoa.
The list would be different, of course, for previous decades. For certain years of the 18th century, for example, it would include the Swiss Cantons, French Republic, and United States; for certain years during 1800-1850 it would include the Swiss Confederation, United States, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Netherlands, Piedmont, and Denmark.
A:There is a problem and it resides in how far equal rights and the franchise is extended, as before women achieved equal rights, the franchise was limited to property owning males, or slavery existed. For previous centuries the definition of democracy has been loosened be researchers to include at least, as mentioned, two-thirds males having equal rights (as long as the lower classes were not excluded), while maintaining the other characteristics (equal rights, open competitive elections, etc.). For one, democracies so defined in previous centuries, such as the United States in 1800 and democratic classical Athens, saw themselves as democratic, called themselves democratic, and were perceived by other nations as democratic. Second, even with this looser definition, well established democracies so defined still did not make war on each other. Well established means that a regime had been democratic long enough for it to be stable and democratic practices to become established.
The fundamental question about any definition is: does it work? Does it define something in reality that predicts systematically to something else. If we have so defined an x such that it regularly predicts to y, then that is a useful and important definition of x. In the definition I have given above of democracy it predicts to a condition of continuous peace (nonwar) between nations defined as democratic. If one does not agree that these are democracies, fine. Then call them xcracies. We then still can say that xcracies do not make war on each other and by universalizing xcracies we have a solution to war.
Best is meant in a statistically significant sense. That is, the probability that democracy would not be a determinant when these other factors are considered is very low (odds also of tens of thousands to one). This has been gauged through analysis of variance and various kinds of regression analysis.
Now, some statistics. If one defines an international war as any military engagements in which 1,000 or more were killed, then 353 pairs of nations (e.g., Germany vs. USSR) engaged in such wars, 1816-1991. None were between two democracies, 155 pairs involved a democracy and a nondemocracy, and 198 involved two nondemocracies fighting each other. The average length of war between states was 35 months, average battle deaths was 15,069.
A good way of calculating the statistical significance of democracies not making war on each other is through the binomial theorem. For both one requires several statistics: the number of nondemocratic pairs and democratic pairs of states in the world for the period during which the wars between these types of pairs occurred, and the number of wars between each type. The problem has not been in determining the number of democratic pairs, but how many nondemocratic pairs there are for some period of time. This has been confronted in the literature, and for those periods in which this number could be defined the zero wars between democracies has been very significant (usually much less than a probability of .01 that this zero was by chance). Just one example follows.
For the years 1946-1986, when there were the most democracies and thus the hardest test of the proposition that democracies do not make war on each other, there were over this period 45 states that had a democratic regime; 109 that did not. There were thus 6,876 state dyads (e.g., Bolivia-Chile), of which 990 were democratic-democratic dyads, none of which fought each other. Thirty-two nondemocratic dyads engaged in war. Thus the probability of any dyad engaging in war 1946-1986 was 32/6876 = .0047; of not engaging in war is .9953. Now, what is the probability of the 990 dyads not engaging in war during this period? Using the binomial theorem, it is .9953 to the 990th power = .0099, or rounded off .01. This is highly significant. The odds of this lack of war between democracies being by chance is virtually 100 to 1.
One should not take this result in isolation, since the lack of war has been tested in different ways for other periods, definitions of democracy, and ways of defining war, and in each case has been significant. Thus, the overall significance is really a multiple (or function, if some of these studies are not independent) of these different significant probabilities, which would make the overall probability (subjectively estimated) of the results being by chance alone surely at least a million to one.
Regarding the American Civil War, an often mentioned exception, the South was not a sovereign democracy at that time. For one, it was not recognized by any major Power, which means that it was not recognized as an independent state. But aside from this, the franchise was limited to free males (which constituted about 35 to 40 percent of all males in the Confederacy), President Jefferson Davis was not elected, but appointed by representatives themselves selected by the confederate states. There was an election in 1861, but it was not competitive.
As with many facts by which we guide our lives, we need not be hung up on such possible exceptions. All alleged exceptions are at the margins of what we call liberal democracies. Although none have been accepted as exceptions to the rule by those who have done research on them, let us suppose that they are in fact exceptions. This still would not weaken the proposition that well established democracies do not make war on each other. This is because in no case have undoubted democracies (such as Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, United States, and Canada) made war on each other and none are mentioned as exceptions.
Then what is an undoubted democracy? It is what all who write on liberal democracy would recognize as clearly a democratic country; it is what all published definitions of democracy would include as a democracy; it is what all scales of democracy based on operational definitions measure as a democracy. These would include such nations as Denmark, Sweden, Canada, the United States, France, Great Britain, and the like. They all have in common several characteristics: their citizens regardless of class have equal rights; policies and leaders are determined through open and competitive elections and voting; and there is freedom of speech. One can be precise about these characteristics and related ones, scale them, weigh and sum them some way, and thus measure democracy and array nations on a scale of democracy. This has been done by a number of researchers, including those who have tested whether democracies make war on each other.
This having been said, there is also a deeper explanation. Democracies are not monolithic; they are divided into many agencies, some of which operate in secrecy and are really totalitarian subsystems connected only at the top to democratic processes. The military, especially in wartime, and the secret services, such as the CIA, are examples. These near isolated islands of power operate as democratic theory would assume. Outside of the democratic sunshine and processes, they do things that were they subject to democratic scrutiny would be forbidden. The answer to this problem is more democratic control. And with the spread of democracy around the world, armies and secret services would be less and less needed. Indeed, with near universal democratization, they could be eliminated altogether.
All public policies are based on perceptions of historical patterns. Indeed, all scientific predictions are based on established theoretical/empirical patterns. No prediction of the future is thus certain; all are based on the past. The question is how good the established patterns are that underlie the predictions. Are they reliable, well verified, theoretically understood. The historical pattern that there is no war between democracies meets all these requirements. Even those who have been very skeptical when starting their research on this have become convinced. One has said that this is now the best established law of international relations.
Given all this and the absolute importance of eliminating war, should we not implement the best empirical/theoretical solution now in our hands? That is, as practical and desired by the people involved, to universalize democracy?
There is also the struggle for human rights in many countries. It helps the struggle to be to not only justify human rights for their own sake, but to point out their importance for global peace and security.
* From the pre-publisher edited manuscript of the "Appendix to Chapter 1" in R.J. Rummel, Power Kills: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence, 1997. For full reference to Power Kills, the list of its contents, figures, and tables, and the text of its preface, click book.
** See the table of contents. [since Chapter 2 is not on this web site, see the annotated bibliography and bibliography on peace and war to The Miracle That Is Freedom]
*** On the nature of democracy, see Chapter 8.
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